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The Revolution Was Televised: The Conversation

Press Play By Matt Zoller Seitz and Alan Sepinwall | Press Play November 30, 2012 at 8:34AM

I worked with HitFix.com television critic Alan Sepinwall at the Star-Ledger of Newark for nine years, 1997-2006. We shared the TV beat together throughout that period, writing reviews and features, and collaborating on a daily column of news and notes titled "All TV."
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Lost: What’s in the Hatch?

Lost Hatch shot

Matt: Lost was made by committee, basically, wasn’t it?

Alan: Yes. What happened was, Lost was conceived by Lloyd Braun, who was then the head of ABC, and who was on the verge of being fired, and needed a Hail Mary to prevent that from happening.

So he hired a writer to develop his idea, and [the script] was terrible. Then he brought in J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof, and Abrams quit after they made the pilot. So there were all these different cooks in there, and it’s such a strange story. A show this good shouldn’t have been made this way. And yet somehow it was.

Matt: Yeah. And you quote little things that suggest Braun was really involved in the concept, like his insistence that all the semi-magical elements on the show ultimately be revealed as being based in science fact. That’s very definitely a creative note, not like some of these notes that some executives give showrunners, along the lines of, “Well, maybe less of this or a little more of that.” 

Alan: Yes, and eventually Lost did move away from that, though by that point Lloyd Braun had been long gone for a while. The people who don’t like the golden pool of light might have been happier if they’d stuck with that note!

Matt: It’s interesting that sometime around Season Three, ABC executives were telling the producers of Lost that they needed to make the show more like NBC’s Heroes, which was coming off a very successful first season, because, as we know, Heroes kind of went to hell in Season Two.

Alan: Oh, yeah, Heroes was one of those classic “Emperor’s New Clothes” situations. It was just that we were all so frustrated by what Lost was doing at the time, and then it was like, “Hey, look! Here’s this show that’s shiny and new, and it’s giving us answers right away! Everything! And clearly they’re building to something!” And it turned out they were building to somebody beating someone else up with a parking meter.

Matt: That whole thing is a testament to how incredibly ungrateful and easily distracted the heads of these major entertainment companies are. Lost, whatever problems it had in Season Two, was original, and a hit. That was ABC’s big, shiny thing. Then they looked at somebody else’s big, shiny thing that was slightly newer, and they said, “Let’s make it like that!”

Alan: And you remember all these terrible Lost imitators. Threshold and Surface and Invasion and Flash-Forward. All of them sort of took the most superficial aspects of the show and said, “Oooh, let’s do things that are weird and have mysteries and sci-fi,” and that’s not really what made Lost special.

Matt: No, it wasn’t. The industry thought [the popularity of Lost] was all about the mythology. It was partly about the mythology, but mainly it was about the same thing that makes every other really great show popular, which is that you never knew what you were going to get when you tuned in.

This article is related to: Alan Sepinwall, Matt Zoller Seitz, Television


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